About The Scarlet Tanager

The Scarlet Tanager is only 7-inches long but its plumage, especially that of its adult male, is very attractive and unmistakable. Bright scarlet head and body with black wings and tail, youd think it would be so easy to see these songbirds in their quest for food. This is not the case though as this particular species of birds like to look for food high in the tree canopy where they are hidden by the dense foliage.

The female Scarlet Tanager is less attractive with its olive-brown wings and tails edged with yellowish olive green. The females back and head are dark greenish becoming yellowish especially on the belly.

The Scarlet Tanager Nesting Preferences

Scarlet Tanagers like to build their nests in deciduous forests, woodlands, parks and suburban areas with large trees. Arriving in the breeding region, the male begins his mating ritual by singing to the female bird. Once a pair is formed, the male continues to sing while he accompanies his mate as she forages.

The female then proceeds to build the nest, which is nothing more than a cup of twigs, grass and stems, situated 5 to 75 feet above the ground. During this phase, the male Tanager is not able to help his partner as his brightly colored plumage may attract predators and put his partner and his nests life at risk. During the nest building and incubation period, therefore, the male stays away from the nest.

The female Scarlet Tanager then lays 3 to 5 pale blue or green eggs that are finely or boldly spotted with brown. She alone incubates her young for about 14 days. The young birds then leave the nest within 9 to 11 days after hatching.

Building a Birdhouse For The Scarlet Tanager

While there are no birdhouses built specifically for Scarlet Tanagers, there are certain specifications that need to be followed regarding the creation of their nests.
First of all, the Scarlet Tanagers nest must be situated in a deciduous tree, usually conifer, 6 – 9 m (20 – 30 ft) above ground (1.8 – 23 m ; 6 – 75 ft possible).
Next, it should be mounted on a horizontal limb. The best place to build the nest would be at the junction of two or more smaller branches with the main horizontal branch. Remember that almost all Scarlet Tanager nests have four characteristics in common.

  • The nests are placed in a leaf cluster, or at least with several leaves shading the nest
  • The nests are on a nearly horizontal branch
  • The nest must have a clear, unobstructed view of the ground below
  • There must be clear open flyways from adjacent trees to the nest.

The Scarlet Tanager Mating Habits

During courtship, the male Scarlet Tanager starts singing in alternately high and low pitch before performing its courtship displays from low branches. Holding its wings drooped and away from the body, its neck stretched out to display its scarlet back, the male Tanager then displays his brilliant color to the female birds.
Once the female responds and pairs are formed, then the monogamous pair proceeds to build their nest and stay together for a long time. With the mating season complete, nesting can thus begin.

The Scarlet Tanager Feeding Preferences

Scarlet Tanagers look for food on the ground and in foliage. Their diet consists mainly of insects, spiders, seeds and berries.

Interesting Scarlet Tanager Facts

The Scarlet Tanager is the only species of Tanagers that undergo seasonal changes in its plumage. Each fall, the male Scarlet Tanager changes his strikingly beautiful red and black plumage to a more drab olive green pretty much the same as the female Scarlet Tanagers plumage.